Portland Interior Designer Spotlight Series – Episode 5


Welcome to the Portland Interior Designer
Spotlight series featuring in-depth interviews with some of Portland’s most
influential and innovative interior designers. These public conversations,
sponsored by Ceilume and Portland Architecture.com are a nexus for
Portland’s vibrant design community, an opportunity for casual networking, and
the perfect place to hear about the next big thing in Portland design. Now please join us at Ceilume’s beautiful ceiling showroom in the heart of Portland’s East Side industrial district for Portland Interior Designer Spotlight Garrison Hullinger is an interior
designer with a passion for creating interior environments that are as warm
and beautiful as they are comfortable and functional but his entry into the
world of interior design is quite different from most in his line of work a former project manager for national
retailer The GAP, Hullinger experienced a near-death work-related accident in 1999
that required him to learn how to read write and walk all over again his occupational therapist suggested he
take on a small bathroom remodel project to help regain motor skills as he
recovered he took on more remodeling projects buying and remodeling homes
throughout San Francisco which led to the realization that he could turn his
new hobby into a career in 2010 he formally launched garrison Hullinger
Interior Design by 2011 he had five employees today that number is 16 and
the Portland Business Journal has recognized his firm as one of the 100
fastest growing companies in organ he brings a deep understanding of color
form and construction to all of the firm’s work and insists each client’s
case I’ll be faithfully yet surprisingly interpreted in every aspect of their
project widely quoted within the industry perhaps his greatest asset is the
ability to instantly see the potential in any space and you are clearly
facilitate every detail from start to finish garrison Hullinger Interior Designs work
continues to be featured in print and digital magazines including The Wall
Street Journal embarked magazine portrait of Portland great magazine
House of fifty and more leading the discussion is noted architectural writer
and founder of Portland architecture dot com Brian Libby Libby has written for
numerous newspapers and magazines including the New York Times the
Atlantic the oregonian so long and well among others primarily focusing on architecture and
design and word winning filmmaker and photographer he is also founder and
editor of Portland architecture the city’s leading blog devoted to local
design and architecture here are Brian Libby and garrison Hullinger you know
one thing I also really enjoyed the projects I’ve seen of yours in the ones
that go into it is that there’s a kind of effortless solution that can go on
sometimes between things like traditional and modern styling and
everybody has no taste that is probably another kind of spectrum I guess but you
know are there any kind of rules or how do I wonder if you could talk a little
bit about your your means of approaching that and and you know is it just you
know every project is different or or you know how do you how do you sort of
face that you know I think that you almost always on our projects we start
with practicality there’s this weird part of me that I just it that was not
comfortable I really don’t want it in our project I think we start with practicality and
from there we cannot start working through it and and trying to figure out
ok how do we keep the lines simple you know I think 2011 of the houses that we
restored in san Francisco is an Edwardian so we went we don’t have
powers though but we went check out all these books and I tried to buy and I
dunno these studies and I really learned that it’s the Edwardian style is really
based on proportions for the way you should live in at home so based on how
many people live in the home proportionally that’s how the rooms are
situated for you and then also really thought about you know how the area’s
move from Victorian and Edwardian the craftsmen and I think that that’s
something I kind of always kept in the back of my head is that if we have the
architecture is this these clean simple lines then I think you can come put
whatever you want in your hands if we’re dealing with you know some of our homes
that were known for his this Hampton style and those projects they just so
grand and we almost like he just like build a lumber yard next to you because
you’re so much millwork going in and does I say that’s now I love that mix
right now we’ve got all this ornamentation the beautiful crowned the
high stack baseboards that you can add in contemporary yeah yeah and we try to
teach people to that you know when you walk on this really I had this vision I
don’t like a lot but I thought about it when I thought about it is that you come
across this really great pike and there’s the trees are there and you’re
trying to look out and Steve the mountains or whatever the view is it’s
never perfect in this view Prairie is framed by limbs and these beautiful like
flowers and it’s hard to tell people that the same thing with your home just
because of this beautiful crown and this trim and all these mouldings its ok to
cover my little bit in nature we wouldn’t leave the stark window despair
writes a few draperies or put some sometimes will put artwork on this
beautiful paneled walls and they just it’s hard right and then it kind of calm
down I think the seriousness of the San Francisco detail how different it might
be high price to be my addict like three or four years ago what would be able to
get better Chinese we were talking about that today and Indian food better I
don’t know you know there’s there’s something about when we’re when I’m
contacted by editors or other publicist that her trying to find out what
portland’s all about they want to know that Portland five and that I don’t know
what that is it’s not enough and it’s certainly something more than Portlandia and and beards and and you
know partisan you know I love the craftsmen right like we love this
beautiful live edge table a little bit but that’s just me right is a designer I
just wanna move on next yeah and I so you know I think in for
Portland you it’s not that we get calls now from the bay area that’s great so
it’s very ironic right where I think we’re installing in a couple weeks were
installing house we’re wrapping up in the Bay Area is there a part in you know
obviously going through this group project thing going on that journey with
clients as many stages stages of it is there a kind of part of the process that
you enjoy the most or where is there an aspect of your job that you feel like it
is where you’re sort of that your best what’s not shopping the catalogs in the
shopping and that would be a lot of people’s favorite yeah they know it’s
not me have a great team I you know my favorite part is when I dig into the
conversation about will when you get out of the shower to go to your closet where
do you how do you put your underwear are you folded are you are you doing things
I love to find out how people live also want to know about their kitchen and how
to use your kitchen and Rd like you’re cutting boards out or do
you like things to me that’s my favorite part I love to know how people are going
to use their home and then what we do is we enhance it and and we will talk about
we I learn more from moms and I do from anyone else teachers like how to create these
cabbies for every kid’s basket and they do the laundry basket in the caribbean
now the kid comes and gets their laundry isn’t it up anymore we have another mom
who taught us you put this is the sixth chair in her bedroom in the master
bedroom so the kids don’t climb into your bed the kids go over the shades and
on the sick night when they come in and wake you up you put them in their little
sick chair like you learn all these great things from the families and I i
love that part of it yet as a kind of investigation goes on your sort of
dropping into these people’s lives for a time and and really kind of you know
you’re in your home and in their home with them you’re creating a home for
them it’s you know there’s it’s kind of an intimate thing you know it’s like
being I don’t think their doctor so it’s it’s it’s really wonderful feeling that
you’ve created such a sense of need that they just not sure how to make a
decision you know I need to design the new pantry can you come help really ok I
also love one another for thanks just help a client has finished a home and we
go in and help them with their Christmas decorations I just think that’s so cool
and that’s the one part of me that loves to decorate I love that finishing I
think part of retail taught me that there things are done in threes and
skill is really important and also this beauty that you can kind
of relate to that it’s not just a piece of artwork from a store or something he
found and if we can come back in and we’ve given the size of someone and they
go on a trip and they roll up the campus and mail it back and then he’ll get
framed I want to be about to deliver it would take credit for that yeah it’s a lot of it is about the human
relationships and you’re saying you like people and so you know that becomes part
of it and and I wanted to ask you about your your inspirations as well as in
that you know especially given the fact that you have a little bit different
paths and and didn’t i remember i didnt go to you know design school or that
something like that and a different career in so and yet this was something
you were you doing as a hobby initially and so you know what were some of the
things as you started to become get closer to becoming a real designer or a
professional designer what whether it when I asked about
inspirations you know I wondered if you could talk about that and it does it
could be something design related or it could be you know something just that is
arts and culture elated as well that you know you know I’d love to hear about
your inspirations that’s a good question not a lot of arts and culture or at
least I was exposed to a maybe but I you know I wow good question I mean like
where you are you rearranging furniture as a kid and that kind of thing had
issues yeah I mean I do remember I would
rearrange the furniture and I was wow this is good so I do remember as a kid
now my brother would remind me that so when Halloween would come down and we
would buy so we don’t know we had like these costumes that match with the
masses like you do now I would like take all the leftover decorations and all the
costumes and hang all over my room was my leave it to my Christmas my Poor Dad
so since christmas has come down all that stuff would go in my room everywhere they probably squash that
early on and you know it kind of came out I would say that the big thinker I was
very fortunate right when I worked for the gap it was a growing company it was
fast and furious my department I think there was five of us when I first went
to corporate open Old Navy group quickly to over 200 employees and offices and we
were traveling a lot of inspiration came from hotel rooms I would just like to
travel to other countries for the for the gap but I was just on the girl to
these amazing hotels in the country and sometimes they were long you know 16 18
hour days and working in developing technology but you know it’s that was a
lot of inspiration in just being from a small town going to the big city it’s
very inspiring yeah that was my journey as well and to
see flashing and reflective quality buildings I’d never see him you know
Walmart ttyl didn’t have that so but I think that was the next time I’m very
high I love scene architecture that’s that’s really I think driving point
passion is I think it’s very interesting rain I’m very ever since my accident I’m
very tactile touch is really important and so you’ll see that a lot of our
designs we use very textual pieces something I feel like I really can
relate to here I remember looking at a fireplace
and a recent house of yours in and it had this this this this round stones
that we’re we’re almost quietly outrageous I feel like I saw qualities
like that in a number of projects I also wondered if you know a couple of times
he sort of mentioned special order and that kind of idea and also when you were
sort of talking about you know putting up things on your wall as a kid and it
almost sounded like a kind of almost like a in some ways it looks like a set
designers approach to interior design that anything else I wondered you know
it’s like the theater was something that influence he was well I they never
showed me that growing up I know I know there was one there really wasn’t
exposed I i’ve heard someone you could smoke and
mirrors it’s dry yeah that’s what we do I think that was probably part of our
experiences in my first home and having your first apartment it’s really a
dramatic effect of I’m going to make this apartment at three ceilings look
like they’re 10 right you put these drapes and don’t look so good but you
know what I think it is drama right it’s kind of you know I think that’s what
we’re all just trying to expose our guests to what our taste is that i think
is for me is kind of the driving point is one of the things that early on
employee you know kind of learned as we work with clients is you know it’s it’s
really difficult because when the client hired I meet every new clients and so as
we go out and we meet them and we start working with them they are related to me
and the portfolio and so even though we have 19 or 20 employees and we have to
delegate right and so but the employees only get to work with the client that’s
what we’ve learned is that employee the designer has to work for me yet and they
have to I have to be their client that can be confusing because this amazing
project is going on in Florida Lake Oswego and designer never gets to meet
them may never get to see the space so instead I’m channeling through that and
that’s what works that we found that when a designer tries to put their spin
on it for the client and the homeowner and and they want their own five on it
it doesn’t work I don’t know why that is but I think for
what we’re trying to do is to have this set model works maybe I’m not very good
at articulating that sometimes but that is what works and I think that it’s
that’s where we hit the home run is just in collaboration I love that part yeah yeah you have a
chance to be sort of like a curator in a certain sense of choosing the work of
artists makers and and you know it’s that something some of our other guests
for the series of talked about this is the chance to sort of you know enabled
in sometimes there artist friends or just people who they’re setting that is
it’s exciting to go back now we’re now call upon people that kind of artist I
stopped in San Francisco I could really afford to buy from them you know back
from them that’s really fun we really learned that I think it’s very important
if your gonna hire me or design team we really should complete one room I I
learned early on that we would do whatever you want to do so I’m so sorry
the but what I’ve learned is that you know it’s our best client comes from
referrals and the worst about us yeah and if someone comes over to your
dinner party and they ask you what you guys tired the designer 40 he picked
that so far in that bed how much is spent they come in they walk in this is
beautiful dining room or beautiful living room and we completed it then
there’s I think they understand what that you we have so sometimes you don’t
always get to use those pieces you want to form an artist or from a beautiful
story like the joinery but it’s you try to work in those things
that you love absolutely and you had the opportunity to do you know a mix of
residential and commercial or retail that sort of thing is I wonder you know
is the experience really different when you go from one type of project to
another as it is still essentially the same and is there anything that you any
type of project that you haven’t done that you would like to do I would think
that the projects are doing alright I think the train and it’s not that
difficult for me for some reason to switch off and on I think you know we
are very very organized business probably very fiscally conservative and
so we run a tight ship and and we’ve divided off people into departments have
people that are experts at what they do so that allows me to jump for Minami
from client to client and not have a lot of disorder going from that project and
relying on those designers within the firm to really be the experts and I
think the one part what I do find though is my gosh I want to mix them up though hindbrain commercial over to residential
there’s much as you want to use elements and scale we don’t need to do that yeah yeah just beautiful fabrics that
you want to bring in you know to commercial and then and there can be
scales that each one kind of desires of the other there could be a gun lobby
that once to behave like someone’s living room even if you know it’s an
entirely different size face or as well and i think thats fun right against an
experienced and I i think what happened you know when I first started the
company at the end of 2009 2010 everyone really was talking about the W Hotel
they wanted their master bedroom to be the hotel experience it split now the
hotels boutique hotels they want their hotel to be the home experience what has
happened and I think that that would be fun I think if you talk about a project
that we’ve not done and we’re doing some small hospitality projects were doing
many unbelievable amount of multifamily mixed use projects residential dark or business that I love and I think it
would be fun to finish yeah but it had to be where we could put the flavor on
it what it feels like home there’s certainly a lot of hotels being built
these days so maybe you’ll get your chance well maybe this might be a good time to
turn it over to audience questions you’re probably gonna repeat the
question for the purposes of the radio but I’d like to ask a personal question thank you was not a business plan you know I
really I was telling Brian earlier I i think one of the unique stances that I
took was a really created a really great relationship with a top photographer in
town and I thanked every bit of money even my own earnings I put it back into
the company and I we we shot all these portfolios we we don’t even use them now early projects right and so i think you
know working with Blackstone edge is it was a big win for me and i invested all
this money and I was able to put up there was a thing called house or who’s
right I didn’t know it was the website right houzz.com is a place to store
imagery as I just putting my portfolio website I
know how to build a website and then it just kind of took off and so I think I
think my imagery and and being available for regional magazines national that
they could have a nice pool of photography to pull from I really think
that was also the next step is OK next part of that would be I don’t have
the skills and the talent that’s needed right so hiring the right people and
that’s difficult it’s it’s personal and it’s it’s heart right to find that team
and so that was that’s the worst growing part I think of a fast-growing business
was just the and I couldn’t say no to clients adding
you know I just kept saying yes we’d hire people and try and make that work
but was also a tough time in 2010 and I think that made me work harder because
people coming out of this recession and that made me really think about the
business that I was putting together and you have that I was noticing I mentioned
this to you before we began but I was noticing that garrison has very
impressive 26,000 Twitter followers and so you know how much are you putting a
lot of effort into social media kind of from the beginning as well that kind of
thing and you know it seems like marketing is something you pay attention
to it was definitely I i love that part of it was just kind of fun to put it out
there that that was the part of it for me I think in this market there were a
lot of people that we’re trying very hard and so I just would put my photos
anywhere they would let me I think what happened was it really garnered
attention from national brands that’s who really started pitching quick and
then we will we saw three years ago I think we saw Martha Stewart retweeted us
so that was like pop the champagne corks yeah anybody else have a question that
when you get a good attorney get a good attorney right because I didn’t know I
just went online and download it contracts and I would say get a great
attorney to write a really great contract because I’ve never had anyone
have any litigation or a lawsuit or lean against us but I think it that’s that’s
extra step of being professional hire people that do the job that you can’t do
higher the bookkeeper like I hired a bookkeeper within the first few months I
started it was a part-time person and she would come to the house was my
addict and walked by the dogs and go to the attic and do that but you know it’s
I would say hi and the people that are professionals do what you can do if you
find that I found that I was the person who wouldn’t send invoices for a month
or two not good so that’s what I would say is like how people that can do the
professional pieces you can anybody else out there that haven’t gone
to school reading books on how to become interior designer that’s a great
question I did read a lot of books to try and understand I really wanted to
stand special issues so there’s jeffrey you are he has a really amazing book and
one of his favorite things to do as he has like the elongated living room right
lets designers nightmare and he would show five different ways to do the
furniture was so cool so sure his last name is be Uhr er Jeffrey her you’re
there yeah but I’m sure I don’t have to trim
production again but you can email me yeah yeah but I i
think that that for me was special right it’s just trying to understand how to
better use spaces to talk to the stain ability I didn’t touch upon the best
part of sustainability in our market is using local resources that is the number
one i think that a lot of times we talk about green and we talked about you know
trying to have that focus and and then yet I hear about someone shipping
container across the country so I think that using local resources are poultry
shops and also the people who are locally working and not driving hundreds
of miles to do their work is the number one then the next topic that we hear the
most gassing we’re still hearing many people are developing more and more
allergies and health issues because of all the off gasoline with adhesives
backing materials it’s changing right it’s given carpets and stuff like that
said yeah and we’re we’re hearing it’s getting better but I think that part of
it is also were rebuilding tighter homes that don’t invent probably like a
thermos yes yes I’m not sure that all positive but I would say you know in
InDesign its I don’t know if I have a little hard time selling the Green Fairy
I’m selling pretty and pretty as noise green right we’re using a lot of fabrics
and petroleum-based materials and I think we ought to be honest with people
about it but sounds like that’s about it but I’d like to thank you garrison this
has been a really super conversation and let’s give our guests a hand if we garrison Hullinger Interior garrison
Hullinger Interior Design

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